HC Deb 20 May 1998 vol 312 cc937-8
1. Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

How many representations he has received to date about his proposal to abolish Llanelli/Dinefwr NHS trust. [41413]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Win Griffiths)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have received almost 2,500 pre-printed letters on this subject, as well as several petitions containing approximately 12,000 signatures. We have also held meetings to discuss the matter with hon. Members and others.

Mr. Davies

There has been much talk of consultation on the proposals. How does my hon. Friend propose to consult the citizens of Llanelli, who use the trust's services, and are satisfied with them? Perhaps we may look forward to a focus group or two—or a citizens jury, even—or perhaps we may have a one citizen, one vote referendum in Llanelli. Or is the reality that all this chatter about consultation is a charade and that the Welsh Office is determined to drive through the proposal without any regard for the views of my constituents?

Mr. Griffiths

My right hon. Friend will know that I went to Llanelli to discuss the proposals when they were still at the gestation stage. The project team is currently holding meetings throughout the area to consult people on the development of the final proposal. As a consequence of the trust reconfiguration, I expect the accident and emergency services at Prince Philip hospital to be strengthened, and the MRI scanner there to be used more effectively and efficiently. At some stage in the consultation process, I shall be happy—in addition to all the other things that we do through our representative democracy—to visit Llanelli and see whether the proposals to improve the service have people's support.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

My hon. Friend will be aware of the extreme disquiet in the northern part of the Bro Taf area about the proposals. I thank him for meeting me and others on a number of occasions. At one of those meetings, he promised that he would let those who were critical know the composition of the group that will be set up to examine the changes. Until now, we have heard nothing. We do not know who is involved. The nurses and other people involved at that level of operation have heard nothing about the proposals that are coming forward.

Mr. Griffiths

I shall ensure that my hon. Friend and others, and certainly staff in the health service, are well aware of the work of the project team. Staff should already be well aware of it. The team's job is to make proposals which can show that the reconfiguration will benefit people living in the area.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

Does the Minister agree that hardly anybody is in favour of the abolition of the trust? There have been more visits by the Lord Chancellor to B and Q than there have been sightings of people in favour of the abolition of the Llanelli/Dinefwr hospital trust.

Is it not time that the Minister started to concentrate on the health of the people of Wales? We had to wait almost four months longer for publication of the health Green Paper than did England and Scotland. Tomorrow, we expect to learn that waiting lists have increased in Wales, as they have in the rest of the United Kingdom. Would it not have been far better to divert the £686,000 wasted on the publication of the devolution proposals in Wales and the £300,000 set aside for publicising the Welsh assembly when it is established next year to front-line services to help the people of Wales to get a better health service?

Mr. Griffiths

For a start, I have visited Llanelli far more times than any Lord Chancellor has ever visited B and Q; that was about the level of the hon. Gentleman's whole question.

We have already put £9.5 million into the health service to deal with winter emergencies, which was very successful. We have another £25 million, most of which is to go towards reducing waiting lists so that, by this time next year, they will be at the very least back to the level at which they stood when we entered office, and as part of a programme to continue to reduce them. Our public health Green Paper was produced absolutely on schedule—as I promised the hon. Gentleman it would be—and was generally welcomed in Wales. The reconfiguration of trusts will produce savings to the tune of £10 million, which will be spent on patient care, so that patients in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales will receive a far better health service.

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